Prayer and Word

Publish date 25-06-2023

by Cesare Falletti

With Sacrosantum Concilium, the liturgy brings believers closer to Scripture and encourages community and personal prayer

What is important was the fact that those who "continued to participate" received great help to be nourished and strengthened by this revised and renewed liturgy that was closer to the faithful

One of the documents that most marked the novelty and reform of the Second Vatican Council is, without a doubt, the one on the liturgy. Perhaps it is not the most important, but it is the one that most touched the sensitivity, habits and spirituality of the faithful. For this reason the document called Sacrosantum Concilium, the first launched by the conciliar assembly, was both the most contested and the one welcomed with the most enthusiasm.

There have been many reforms and – such as the introduction of the languages spoken by the different peoples instead of Latin as the only possible language for liturgical celebrations of all kinds in the liturgy of the Western Church – have given rise to great debates and, unfortunately, divisions within the Church. However, they have given the faithful of the Catholic Church a new sense of active and lively participation in the liturgy; this has become a source of common prayer, whereas before it was considered a series of rites concerning only the celebrants, while during the celebrations the faithful were invited to join in a personal prayer. The reform was expected; the evolution of society, the abandonment of participation in religious functions began to make itself felt and what is important was the fact that those who "continued to participate" received great help to be nourished and strengthened by this revised and renewed liturgy and closer to the faithful. Everyone was asked to join Christ in the offering to the Father and everyone became aware that they were being offered on the altar by the Holy Spirit.

Being in the time of Lent, I want to take as an example what our document says about this important liturgical season. Paragraph 109 says: «The dual character of Lent, which, above all through remembrance or preparation for baptism and through penance, invites the faithful to listen more frequently to the word of God and to pray and thus prepares them to celebrate the paschal mystery, is placed more clearly both in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis".

Lent (now with a capital L), from being primarily a penitential and ascetic time, has rediscovered its paschal character. Easter is the center and source of the whole liturgy and of the whole life of the Church and Lent, as a time of preparation for Easter, rediscovers its role of preparation for baptism or for the renewal of baptismal commitments on holy night, the great Easter vigil, time for conversion and the new life of the Christian, given to him by the resurrection of Christ. The ascetic aspect takes a back seat, while that of the conversion of life to be new and free creatures in the Risen One gives meaning to this long period of preparation, which will find its parallel in the 50 post-Easter days until Pentecost.

Lent also becomes a more particular time for catechesis, both through a more in-depth reading of the Scriptures, in common or alone, and through the recollection and explanation of the Easter rites, especially baptism and the Eucharist. The exhortation to the Christian life is therefore not limited only to moral exhortations, which are very necessary, but also to a theological knowledge of what it means to be Christian. This is not the only time to do it, but we all need stronger times that spur us on to a life more consistent with our faith.

Lent is therefore a time in which the Christian is called to a more generous charity and to sharing with the poorest, as well as an invitation to "come with an elevated and liberated heart to the joy of resurrection Sunday". The note of joy is not a decoration of language, but an underlining of an essential element of the Christian life.

Cesare Falletti

NP Marzo 2023

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